Buying a house can be really fun! Here is what’s not fun: Packing up everything you own and moving it into the new house you bought. While it’s a great time to toss items that no longer give you joy, when you look around at the years of stuff you’ve accumulated, the task can seem daunting! Let’s follow a moving packing list to make it easier.
Step 1: Get your packing supplies together
Gathering all the supplies you need before you get started saves you from last-minute trips to the store. You’ll need:
A great trick is to use the textiles in a room — for example, tablecloths or sheets — to wrap its breakables, such as dishes or a bedside lamp. If you’re going to wrap dishes in extra towels or sheets, throw those fabrics in the laundry now.
Lorenzo Murray is an agent in upstate New York who works with 85% more single-family homes than other agents in his area. He’s helped several Navy and Air Force families move and says that they have it down to a science.
“There was one family that color-coded every box,” he says. “Every box had a color, which went with a color code chart. This color is this room, this color is this bedroom, this living room.”
Even if they didn’t go so far as to color code their whole house, military families like to use labels, so make sure you have plenty on hand.
Step 2: Determine which rooms to pack, in which order, and what you’re taking
Depending on how many weeks (or months!) before your move that you’re starting to pack, begin with rooms and items that you won’t need between now and your move.
Storage areas and guest bedrooms can be low-stress places to start that won’t disrupt your life too much. You probably won’t need access to books, records, and collectibles before your move — you’ll be too busy packing!
If you’re moving in the late spring or summer, you’re safe packing up winter clothes and ski gear. Seasonal items that are out-of-season, special occasion items, and other things you use sporadically can be prioritized and packed first.
If you haven’t opened the attic or cracked the basement door since you moved in, instead of packing those rooms, maybe consider donating the contents. Why pay to take boxes that haven’t been touched since your last move with you this time?
Murray has seen some households who had been living in the same place for so long and accumulated so much stuff that they just “got dumpsters for the weekend and just chucked a bunch of stuff that was in the basement and attic.”
Even though you don’t want to pack the kitchen first, try to split the bill — it’s one of the most time-intensive rooms to pack, so get any appliances or dishes you don’t use frequently packed up early.
Make a room-by-room inventory of everything you are definitely taking with you, and get brutal about throwing away broken or rarely-used items. If you requested a second showing of your new home, bring a measuring tape!
“Measure out each room’s width and depth so that you can understand what’s going to fit,” Murray advises. That way you know what you can take with you and what you shouldn’t bother to pack.
The average cost of a local move is $1,250, and the average cost of a long-distance move is $4,890. Movers usually charge based on the time it takes to load your stuff and its weight (unless you’re using a storage container service), so the more you have and the longer it takes to load, the more your move will cost.
Step 3: Set aside your ‘do not pack’ items
Whether you’re driving across town or cross country, you’ll need some items right away.
Set aside a change of clothes (or a week’s worth if you’ll arrive before your stuff does) and toiletries for everyone in your house.
“Make sure that you’ve got access to essentials for children and pets, from snacks to pet food to medicine. Anything that you’re using on a daily basis, you want to bring that with you in your vehicle,” says Murray.
Figure out what you don’t want to pack for the movers to take and put them in a suitcase or tote that stays separate from your other belongings. Packing up your car the morning before they get there means that it’s out of the way, and you won’t risk someone accidentally grabbing your suitcase and throwing it in the moving truck.
Think about what you’ll need right away in a new home — paper towels and toilet paper, certain cleaning supplies, maybe a pot or pan for cooking if the movers show up late. Some cross-country movers give you a few days’ window for delivery, and you might not want to live entirely on takeout in the meantime.
If you don’t have room in your car and are planning a longer move, you can also arrange for a big-box retailer to deliver a shipment of cleaning supplies to your new house on the closing date. Place an order at a store like Target, Wal-Mart, or online at Amazon, for cleaning supplies to arrive at your house the day you move in.
You’ll also want items for assembling furniture in your new place, like hammers, screwdrivers, and allen wrenches. Throw a small toolkit in your trunk that contains everything you’ll need.
Step 4: Set aside your ‘pack carefully’ items
Tools, cleaning chemicals, auto batteries, paint, fire extinguishers, ammonia — these will need to be packed carefully. Many hazardous cleaning supplies are cheap to replace, so given the risk of packing them, consider disposing of them instead. Do a sweep of your garage and basement and pack up stuff to take to your city’s hazardous waste disposal site.
Wedding dresses, delicate items, artwork, and other difficult-to-pack items also fall into this category. Grab some extra bubble wrap for your great-grandmother’s tea set. If you’ve enlisted friends to help pack boxes, you might want to be in charge of the items that have deep sentimental value.
Step 5: Pack your electronics
Before you pack your television and other electronics, take pictures of the back so you can set them up again. Be honest with yourself — will you really remember which cord goes where after a long day moving?
Do you still have the original boxes and styrofoam? Put them right back in, and you’re set. Otherwise, get yourself some antistatic bubble wrap or popcorn and some big boxes, wrap everything up really well, and label it “FRAGILE.” Bubble wrap, popcorn, and tissue for moving can be bought online at amazon on other retailers in different lengths and sizes, or stop in at your local moving truck company (such as U-Haul).
Put any screws or hardware into a plastic bag and tape it to the back of the item or inside its box. That way, they’ll be right there when it’s time to set it back up.
Step 6: Follow your room-by-room lists for …
Jeff Walker is the Chief Operating Officer of Corporate Relocation, a company that provides relocation services for corporations moving their employees.
He advises packing one room at a time so that you can keep everything that belongs in that room in the same set of boxes. Mixing items from the kitchen in with stuff for the bedroom makes unpacking a chore that sends you all around your new house.
First: Remember those hallway closets! Packed full of extra towels, sheets, and toiletries, it’s easy to overlook them. But if you haven’t cracked the door in months, they’re one of the first spaces you can clear out (and maybe toss some stuff, too).
The reason you want to start with the closets? You can use extra sheets and blankets to wrap items in the kitchen and dining room, so this is your chance to determine what you’ll use for packing materials.
The kitchen and dining room
Start by cleaning out your fridge and tossing anything perishable. Throw out that ancient bag of frozen peas, dispose of any open boxes of food, and empty and recycle glass jars (which can break during a move). Look under your kitchen sink and properly dispose of cleaning chemicals that could be dangerous to transport.
Once you’ve eliminated everything you’re not going to take with you, you can start packing. Canned goods, paper products, and food in boxes (like mac and cheese) can all go in small boxes. But before you spend your time packing them up — check expiration dates!
China, glassware, and barware could be in your kitchen or your dining room. If you bought pre-sectioned boxes, they’re great for packing breakable objects. Put down a layer of padding (bubble wrap or tissue paper) on the boxes’ bottom before carefully wrapping each object individually.
Nest mixing bowls, serving bowls, and soup bowls with newspaper in between each bowl, then wrap the whole stack. Use pre-sectioned boxes for mugs and cups, and wrap each of them in one to two layers of paper.
When the professionals pack, Walker says that they “use a lot of packing paper, and each dish, each cup, coffee mug, glass, is going to be wrapped individually.” It takes time and patience, but if you follow his advice, it’s less likely that items will break in transit.
Pack odd-shaped items like a gravy boat, or any figurines or other delicate items, in their own boxes if they’re breakable. Pots and pans can go in the same box, but separate them with packing materials to avoid scratches.
If you use a silverware caddy in your drawer, just slide it into a large plastic bag and seal it up. Wrap real silver utensils in plastic wrap to prevent tarnish and rust, add a layer of newspaper, and seal with tape. You can group all the knives or forks together in bundles.
Taking your microwave? Be careful when packing small appliances. Remove anything sharp, like blades in a blender, and wrap them in something thicker (like newspaper) to prevent cuts. Tie cords with string so that you don’t have a tangled mess when you unpack.
What about that cookbook collection? Books can get heavy if you put them all in one box, so either slide them in odd spaces around other items in other boxes, or use them as a bottom layer with lightweight tablecloths, placemats, and aprons on top. Check to make sure you can lift the box when you’re done!
Disassemble dining room chairs if they have removable legs, wrap them in tissue, and pack them in a box.
If you own expensive stereo equipment and speakers, take special care in packing. Secure any lasers and the platter with transport screws on the back or bottom. Use the plastic lock on the turntable to hold the tone arm in place, and consider tying a piece of string around it in case the lock doesn’t hold.
Speakers can go in well-cushioned dish packs, or wrap them in padding if they’re large.
If you kept its original box, use it to pack your television. Large-screen or plasma TV’s might need to be crated, so talk to your mover and ask if they provide crates. DVDs and VCR players don’t need special packing, but you might want to wrap them and tie up any cords before putting them in a box.
If you’re taking it with you, contact a satellite dish distributorship or an electrician about disassembling and moving your satellite dish. You’ll want a professional to handle removing and crating it — it’s not safe to climb up on your roof and do it yourself!
Once you’ve got everything off the TV stand, remove and carefully wrap any glass shelves or doors. You don’t have to wrap or pack any big furniture (like a couch or pool table), but you might want to buy moving blankets if your mover doesn’t provide them.
CDs, records, and board games can all go in boxes. Store CDs and records on their edges — not flat — with padding underneath, and use heavy boxes (or the board games) to prop them up. Make sure to mark the boxes with your records “FRAGILE.”
When you put books in boxes, pack them either laid flat or with the spines down. If the spines are up, glue can break away from the binder.
Photos in frames with glass should be wrapped as carefully as you wrapped your china. Use padding and cushioning, and pack slides and negatives in separate cartons.
If your stuff is going into storage, make sure that the unit is temperature-controlled so that sensitive film isn’t ruined.
Take apart lamp bases and lampshades when packing, and remember to remove lightbulbs. Don’t wrap lampshades in newspaper or anything with ink that could transfer. Wrap bases in tissue or something soft.
Consider having your rugs cleaned before moving. The cleaners send your rug back nicely rolled and plastic-wrapped, ready for moving. If that’s not possible, roll them up and secure them with packing tape.
Buy wardrobe boxes for all your clothing on hangers. That way, you can transfer them from your closet to the box, then into your closet at your new house, with ease. If you have empty suitcases, use them to pack folded items.
Take valuable jewelry with you in your car or suitcase if you’re traveling. Wrap costume jewelry in tissue and put in small boxes. If you own hats, either buy hatboxes or stuff the crown with tissue and put them in their own box.
Mattresses should go in plastic mattress bags to protect them during the move, and stuff pillows in dresser drawers. You can buy them as part of a moving kit at a van rental store like U-Haul, or individually. Fold drapes and curtains flat in squares, if possible, or drape them over a padded hanger and pin them in place.
Wash and dry all your sheets and blankets before packing them. Store them in large plastic bags, then put them in paper-lined boxes. You can wrap clocks, mirrors, and photos in several layers of bubble wrap and nestle them between sheets and blankets for extra protection.
Whether you keep toiletries like deodorant and hairspray in your bedroom or bathroom, you can’t take them all with you. Aerosols could combust during transport, so you’re better off tossing them.
Tape all bottles closed, and then wrap them individually in sealed plastic bags before putting them in a box. You can pack towels around them to absorb any breakage or spills, too. Consider buying plastic tubs to store toiletries and further prevent spills.
Walker recommends homeowners to pack a lot of their bathroom and personal items separately and not have them moved, because “anything that’s liquid, perfume, can really cause problems if it does break.”
Laundry baskets and hampers are great for carrying more than clothes. Throw in large pillows, balls, or backyard toys that don’t fit anywhere else.
Use plastic wrap to cover your ironing board and hold it shut, and tie up your iron’s cord before packing it in a box. Tape any sewing kits closed so that pins don’t spill out in a box.
If you want to take laundry detergent, stain remover, and dryer sheets with you, consider the cost of spills in transit. It’s best to pack them in a car or transport them yourself. Bleach is a hazardous chemical, and since it’s cheap to replace, you’re better off disposing of it before you move.
Office or hobby rooms
A home office or hobby room can have a surprising amount of electronics — from a fax machine to a sewing machine. You’ll be happy you labeled cords and plugs when it’s time to set up your printer at your new house. Disconnect all wires, and remember to also remove ink cartridges so they don’t leak.
Backup your computer before packing it, whether to the cloud or on old-fashioned DVDs. If you’re working from home and will need your laptop right away, take it with you.
Whether you quilt, sew, or knit, be careful when packing up pins and needles. Use rubber bands to hold small pin boxes closed. Make sure that they’re tucked inside boxes so that even if they spill, no one gets poked!
Packing up a garage presents unique challenges. Bundle together shovels, rakes, and brooms, tying them with twine. Remove and pack separate cushions from yard furniture.
Drain oil or gas from any power tools, remove any loose parts, and pack them in their storage boxes. Use old towels to wrap any sharp edges and blades.
Get rid of any charcoal from a grill or dispose of a propane tank (movers won’t take them). If your city provides municipal trash cans, you have to leave them behind. But if you own your cans, think about just buying new cans. They’re inexpensive and too much work (and stinky!) to take with you.
You’ll have to talk to your mover about larger yard equipment like snowblowers, leaf blowers, and riding lawn mowers.
Now that you’ve made your way through the list, you can feel confident you packed well for your move. (We’ll leave the unpacking to you!)
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